It can be difficult even for eyes adjusted to the sometimes squalor of pre-katrina New Orleans. Difficult to discern the difference between what wind, water, and the stranded wrought and what has been brought on by years of sinking swamplands, humidity and poverty.

My new neighborhood offers up the challenge of guessing which tragedy has befallen some of it’s houses…my next door neighbor with a pile of debris sitting in the street in front of the house – around the corner where the bricks from a sizable set of front porch stairs are stacked neatly beside an even larger pile of old wood scattered with flattened bottles and random garbage discarded or haphazardly caught by the wind.

That same strip of street has the smell of cats or dogs – the smell, far too pungent for household pets my mind searches now to remember if that is the house with “aspca rescue / 2 dogs” written across the front or if that is the house I attach it to because it smells like too many animals left too long there…a year and a half later.

And this is uptown, where few houses were truly affected by much of anything.

My old neighborhood is different. Driving in Saturday night with little light to illuminate the magnitude of it all, it was still enough for me to see the fema trailers parked in front of houses that still bear the scars of an old storm. One had a crack running horizontally through it. Many still flashed the rescue/recovery tag that told how many people found – dead and alive – and other information. The only true documentation.

And when daylight hit and I found myself wandering aimlessly through the city I ended up parked in front of my old building. It isn’t boarded like many of the buildings on canal blvd, but panes of glass are still broken and missing – the front door was dilapidated. I couldn’t tell if anyone was living there…the waterline still prominent at the first floor. I can’t imagine people would but…knowing the price of rent here I guess I can.

The one bright note in its own twisted way, the homeless woman who usually held down the intersection a few blocks from my house – the one who is ALWAYS in multiple layers like it is freezing, even in the broiling new Orleans heat – the one who never returned greetings before the storm, who reluctantly accepted food from me and a friend after the storm – the icon of my mid-city world is still holding down canal. She’s moved downtown it seems. But I caught sight of her this morning and had to smile. Despite all her changes, new Orleans is still new Orleans.

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